Are Robots Replacing Lawyers? Not Like You Think | ABA Law Practice Today

Dorna Moini’s Law Practice Today article takes a sanguine view of the threat of automation taking lawyer jobs:

Automation is playing a major role in helping create more legal opportunities rather than eliminate legal jobs. In fact, according to a recent UCLA Law Review article, two leading experts on automation say that technology complements the work of many lawyers, rather than replacing it. Similarly, a recent study of 20 corporate law firms byDocumate found that selling online workflows increased the revenue generated from first stage incorporation work by 210% in just the first two months. These findings are backed up by statistics from the McKinsey Global Institute, which found that only 23% of lawyers’ current jobs could be fully automated.

If automation is not replacing lawyers, how it is impacting the legal profession? Widespread automation of routine documents and legal forms, particularly in areas such as family law, estate planning, or employment law, has helped to introduce more consumers to the availability of legal services. While the lawyers may no longer be handling the routine work that comes with the templates, providing automated forms opens the door for those lawyers to offer their services to a wider segment of the population and to provide other, more nuanced legal services to the consumers who are using those forms. The end result is an increase in their overall workload and their total number of hours billed for higher-value work (or, alternatively, more free time).

The popular notion that automating a single aspect of the law will necessarily obviate the rest of lawyers’ jobs is misplaced. For example, automated forms are undoubtedly increasing the number of clients who now have access to legal representation and reducing the number of hours lawyers are spending on manual, routine tasks. Nonetheless, the bulk of legal practice is at no risk of being replaced by technology. Human lawyers will always be needed for the more critical tasks, like formulating arguments, advising clients, negotiating deals or settlements, and appearing in court.

Why Employees Don’t Share Knowledge with Each Other

A few of the interesting points from a Harvard Business Review article, Why Employees Don’t Share Knowledge with Each Other:

What motivates people to share or hide knowledge? When we analyzed the data on what motivates participants to share or hide knowledge, we categorized their responses as being either “autonomous motivation” (which means doing something because it is meaningful or enjoyable) or “controlled motivation” (which means doing something to get a reward or avoid a punishment). Our results showed that knowledge sharing is more likely when employees are autonomously motivated (for example, they’d agree with the statements “It’s important to share what I know with colleagues” or “It’s fun to talk about things I know”). In contrast, people are more likely to hide their knowledge when their motivation is driven by external pressures (“I don’t want to be criticized” or “I could lose my job”).

This means that pressuring people to share knowledge rather than making them see the value of it doesn’t work very well. If workers do not understand the importance of sharing knowledge to reach unit or organizational goals, they will be less likely to share that knowledge. And if workers are pressured into sharing what they know, it could backfire. If they’re afraid of losing a competitive advantage, they may be even more reluctant to reveal information.

“Pressuring people to share knowledge” has limited value. Creating “autonomous motivation” is critical.

Draft KM Book Preface: Frieda Riley

I use this “Off The Clock” category for topic of personal interests, on this occasion a memoir about a teacher who gave me my first clue about thinking clearly.

I dedicated my first book, The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers, to the best teachers I had in high school, college, law school and two people I encountered later who influenced me greatly:

Frieda Riley, Big Creek High School

J.B. Shrewsbury, Concord College

Robert G. Lawson, University of Kentucky Law School

Larry McGoldrick, Capital Area P.C. Users Group Volunteer Instructor

Larry Fröhlich, Federal Reserve Board

The attached file is the preface to a book I am writing about knowledge management for law firms. It uses Freida Riley’s example to make an important point for lawyers. I’m posting it here for the benefit of friends in the BCHS 70 group. Some of them had trouble reading the PDF, so here is an MS Word version.

Resource: Book, Author DiDomenico

Although it is a few years old, Patrick DiDomenico’s book, Knowledge Management for Lawyers (ABA 2015) remains a key resource for lawyers interested in improving their bottom line through increased efficiency.

This fine book provides a methodical approach to developing law firm intranets, key KM tools.

I found the section on the Army lawyer (Judge Advocate General, AKA “JAG”) approach to KM to be particularly useful. It contains insights that would be useful in just about any government or corporate law office, as well as many private law firms.

Could the book be improved? Is there any book that could not be improved in some way? I offer two suggestions for possible inclusion in future editions of this fine book:

  1. Modify the writing style to make it more engaging to readers. Most people are too busy to read books that sound like textbooks.
  2. Place more emphasis on the importance of human factors on effective knowledge management. Like most KM books, whether oriented toward lawyers or the private sector, the book does not contain as much material on this key topic as it deserves.

Conclusion

I highly recommend this fine book. The American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section (membership free to ABA members) is generally acknowledged to be the best publisher of legal technology books in the country. This book only enhances their reputation. The book is available through the ABA or Amazon.com. ABA members receive a substantial discount from the $129 list price.